P30 Pro ultimate test shows Huawei flagship still outclasses its competition

P30 Pro ultimate test shows Huawei flagship still outclasses its competition

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P30 Pro is the most ambitious smartphone of 2019 (Image: Getty • Huawei)

P30 Pro is the most ambitious handset of 2019; the hardware not only vies to offer the best and most diverse camera system on a mobile device, but it also attempts to reinvent the way smartphone lenses zoom, too.

Moreover, Huawei also promised the P30 Pro would be able to fit all that exciting technology in a device that offers a gorgeous display, rapid performance and breezes through an entire day of usage on a single charge.

While we believed the Chinese tech giant had achieved its lofty objectives with the P30 Pro, Express.co.uk was recently invited to the Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa to probe the device further.

After five days of excruciating testing in the coastal region of KwaZulu-Natal, the P30 Pro proved that it’s even better than the sum of its parts would suggest.

It didn’t take long for the P30 Pro to achieve a victory in our South African journey; the device immediately started flexing its battery muscle the moment we boarded our flight from London Heathrow to Johannesburg.

The P30 Pro was able to survive an entire day of usage before our plane took off in the evening and still had power left when we arrived at our accommodation the next day at around 2pm.

During our hectic travel schedule to the game reserve, we did not once have to scramble for a power outlet or worry the phone was going to give out on us.

The P30 Pro’s title of being the undisputed battery champion was certainly evident during our time in South Africa; our days in KwaZulu-Natal had us up from 5am to get a glimpse at some of the world’s most beautiful animals and arguably the most astonishing sunrise on offer.

And while a majority of smartphones on the market would have seen their battery life start to crumble in the early evening after a day of intense usage, the P30 Pro didn’t break a sweat and carried its charge until a second day with regularity.

The Huawei P30 Pro’s superb longevity is bolstered by its rapid processor and generous amount of RAM, meaning it is able to open applications incredibly quickly and maintain them in the background.

Further credit needs to be paid to the phone’s display which, while unfortunately limited to a 1080p resolution, offers great viewing angles and vibrant colours.

The finishes Huawei has chosen for the handset also make it visually striking; the amber sunrise gradient is our personal favourite and felt right at home in the tropical grasslands of South Africa.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

But of course, the P30 Pro’s camera was the real star of the show during our time in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

The Huawei handset comes with a quartet of lenses on its rear comprised of a 40-megapixel main camera, 20-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens, 8-megapixel telephoto module and a time-of-flight (TOF) sensor.

Each lens serves a unique purpose and can be utilised in different ways, making the P30 Pro the most diverse flagship around by some margin.

As we discussed in our original review for the hardware, we believe its primary sensor is the best on a smartphone right now.

However, it is easily the P30 Pro’s dedicated lens for zooming that not only differentiates the phone from an increasing wave of competition, but also allowed us to take shots that are simply not possible on other products.

During our time in South Africa, we were lucky enough to see a vast array of wildlife such as lions, rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes and more.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

And while the talented guides at the Phinda Game Reserve allowed us to get extremely close to such animals, we ultimately had to make use of the P30 Pro’s five-times optical zoom with regularity.

Harnessing a periscope-style structure, the P30 Pro’s 8-megapixel telephoto sensor is capable of capturing a shot at a five-times zoom with no details lost.

Additionally, this module combines with the phone’s main camera to offer a 10-times hybrid zoom.

While some sharpness and detail is admittedly shunned here, photos still look great enough to show friends, family or share on social media.

Being able to capture the texture of an elephant or the fine coat of a lion highlights the usefulness of a powerful zoom and Huawei should be credited for employing such technology on the device.

We also enjoyed using the P30 Pro’s ultra wide-angle snapper to fit more objects into a single frame and capture shots that are truly unique.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

While other smartphones on the market offer a comparable lens, Huawei needs to be credited for the similar colour science it brings to the table – you will not notice a huge difference in overall photo quality when switching from its primary sensor to the ultra wide.

Although it was certainly the module we utilised least, the P30 Pro’s TOF camera allows it to produce portrait mode shots with incredibly accurate bokeh.

Essentially, the TOF sensor is used for 3D scanning and gives the Huawei handset a better perception of the objects around it.

The camera also allows the P30 Pro to implement gradual bokeh, meaning objects that are far away are more blurred and items closer are less so.

While each lens offered by the Chinese product is great in its own right – the way Huawei has intricately weaved intelligent software between them is what’s most remarkable.

The P30 Pro has two standout software features; a dedicated night mode and what Huawei dubs a “pro” mode.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

The former allows the 2019 flagship to take the best photos on a smartphone in low light and can be used on every single one of its sensors.

Knowing we could take an incredible low light photo from the phone’s primary, ultra wide-angle or telephoto sensor incited creativity and really puts the P30 Pro in its own league.

Experimenting with shots in low-light resulted in some of the best photos we have ever taken on a mobile device.

For those unfamiliar, the P30 Pro’s night mode works by requiring the user to hold still for about six seconds while the phone takes multiple images at different exposures and stitches them all together to produce a final shot.

And with a swathe of animals in South Africa’s savannas appearing once the sun sets, having a dedicated night mode became a necessity to capture gorgeous wildlife.

While slightly more complex, we also made good use of the phone’s pro mode during our excursion.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Once the user heads to this mode, they are able to adjust the P30 Pro’s ISO, shutter speed, exposure, focus and white balance.

While all that photography jargon may sound incredibly intimidating, once the function of each setting is understood pro mode becomes one of the P30 Pro’s best features.

We found the setting most useful when taking photos of South Africa’s captivating sunrises and sunsets.

These moments in particular allowed us to really experiment with pro mode and capture a range of different looking shots in an identical scenario.

In addition to its rear lenses, the Huawei P30 Pro also comes with a 32-megapixel front-facing sensor that, while still not the best in the business, represents a colossal improvement over previous selfie modules from Huawei.

Whereas the firm’s recent Mate 20 Pro handset had the tendency to smooth skin and wash over details in many scenarios, the P30 Pro’s front system does a much better job in this regard and performs noticeably better in HDR scenarios.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Jessica Noah Morgan)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

With that said, the phone does not match the quality of its rivals such as the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL that not only take better selfies, but also offer an additional ultra wide-angle snapper to allow more people to fit into a single scene.

Furthermore, the 32-megapixel camera is also singularly responsible for managing the phone’s facial unlocking system that is still miles behind its competition in terms of security and reliability.

As we noted in our review of the device, the facial recognition offered by the P30 Pro frequently suffers from problems when the user is moving, meaning it rarely worked for us during our time in South Africa.

This meant we always opted to use the phone’s in-display optical fingerprint reader, that is much quicker and more reliable than the firm’s Mate 20 Pro flagship, to open it.

Video recording on the P30 Pro does not set the standard for smartphones by any means; the Huawei handset typically produces footage that looks much warmer than reality.

Additionally, the device can only record in 4K at up to 30-frames-per-second whereas many of its rivals can do so at 60-frames-per-second.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

However, once again the P30 Pro’s trump card here is with its versatility – the phone allows you to record with its primary, ultra wide-angle and telephoto cameras, resulting in laudably diverse footage.

Being able to record with the products’s zooming sensor was invaluable for capturing clear animal behaviour from a distance.

P30 Pro also has a feature called dual-view video that allows the handset to record two videos at once; one with its primary sensor and another with its telephoto unit.

This meant when recording, owners are able to gather two perspectives, eliminating the need to frantically zoom in and out if a subject is moving for instance.

Finally, the P30 Pro’s stabilisation needs to be credited; the phone’s primary and telephoto sensors come with optical image stabilisation and software stabilisation that combine to ensure video and is smooth and photos do not come out looking blurry.

This in particular proved to be necessary when navigating across South Africa on an open top jeep, helicopter and a Zodiac boat.

In terms of its build, the P30 Pro is incredibly durable and its IP68 water and dust resistance certification meant we were never worried when using this phone either on land or near water.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Verdict

Using Huawei’s latest and greatest in South Africa for five days of severe testing proved the device is so much more than the sum of its parts would suggest.

The P30 Pro’s first class camera system and battery are two of the biggest features that put it a cut above its closest competition.

Huawei has seen an explosion of growth in recent years for the huge strides it has made with regard to smartphone innovation – the P30 Pro is the firm’s greatest achievement yet and is our go-to smartphone for everything it does right.

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Huawei P30 Pro camera review

Huawei P30 Pro camera sample (Image: Express Newspapers)

Should you buy a P30 Pro?

One of the biggest asterisks hanging over the P30 Pro at the moment surrounds Google’s impending Android block against Huawei that will go into effect on August 19.

Until recently, it had been unclear if the P30 Pro would receive any substantial Android updates after this time such as Google’s forthcoming Q that will debut later this year.

However, Huawei recently expressed its confidence the P30 Pro, in addition to a litany of its other handsets, will receive Android Q.

Additionally, the firm has also stated its smartphones will continue to be granted software and security updates, too.

Discussing the matter, Huawei said: “Ongoing security and software updates will continue to be provided to keep all Huawei smartphones and tablets secure and up-to-date.

“We are confident that our most popular devices, including the P30 series, will be able to access Android Q.

“We have been working with third parties for many months to ensure devices will be able to receive Android Q updates. Technical preparations and testing has already begun for over 17 devices.

“In fact our Mate 20 Pro has already been given approval to receive Android Q as and when it is released by Google.”

However, it is worth noting that despite the recent commitment from Huawei, the trade-in prices for the device remain obscenely low.

MusicMagpie continues to offer a mere £100 for a P30 Pro in “good” condition for instance.

That marks a dramatic fall in value from the £899 launch price of the hardware.

Those considering a purchase of Huawei’s newest device will need to take into account its dismal resell value when doing so.

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